Background and Challenges of Common Zip Lines
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Background and Challenges of Common Zip Lines

Zip Line Trolley Injuries and Excessive Costs Addressed

Whether you’re thinking about backyard zip lines or large, commercially run zip lines, the dilemma of bringing riders to a safe stop remains. A typical zip line trolley consists of two pulleys conjoined via a common housing. While simple in design, there are numerous risks lurking in this construction.

Twisting during a Ride Can Prevent Stopping Safely

Most common trolleys use a single point of connection between the trolley and the safety harness that secures the rider. A fabric harness, coupled with a single point of connection to the trolley, increases the likelihood that a rider’s position will twist during the ride. Often times, the rider may be facing sideways or even backward, limiting the rider’s ability to steer or prepare to stop. Here, another serious safety hazard awaits. Imagine the danger for riders relying on their feet for braking!

A Zip Line’s Abrupt Stop Can Cause Whiplash

“Impact braking” refers to the use of an elastic cord (often a bungee cord) and a small block that is affixed toward the end of the zip line so that it can slide freely along the cable. One end of the bungee cord is fastened to the block and the other is rigidly affixed to a point on the ground. When a rider traversing along the cable makes contact with the block, the elastic cord expands and slows the rider to a stop. Riders can then be catapulted back along the cable by the elastic cord. This common experience is referred to as the “Whiplash Effect” and can result in injury to riders. The Whiplash Effect varies as much as each rider’s weight, bringing further uncertainty to the ride’s end.

Dangers of a Brakeman

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To counteract this whiplash scenario, some use a “brakeman” to hold a rope or elastic cord that’s attached to a block sliding freely along the cable. As the rider’s trolley intercepts the block, the brakeman restricts the rope’s motion, slowing the rider-often abruptly. Frequently, the force of the zip line lifts the brakeman off his/her feet, introducing greater loss of control.

This imprecise and unpredictable braking method can be unsafe for both rider and brakeman. Furthermore, using a person to facilitate braking can add complexity and expense to a commercial zip line system. Please see the brakeman video at right for evidence of this situation.

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Hand Braking on a Zip Line Hurts

Some zip lines require riders to wear a glove on one hand so the rider can squeeze the zip line cable, creating dynamic friction along the cable to slow the rider. Not only do participants often complain about the dirty or tattered glove, hand and arm injuries can occur with this type of “hand braking.”

The Nature of Gravity

So why not rely on gravity to gradually slow your momentum on a zip line? While less of a safety concern, zip line enthusiasts complain that the “gravity method” often does not allow participants to ride the full length of the zip line cable. Individuals’ different weights can cause riders to lose momentum at different points along the zip line. Disappointed customers feel frustrated that they did not get to experience the “full” zip line. Owners can also grow frustrated about not using the full zip line, especially since one of the largest expenses can be the cable itself.

For all of these reasons, Dimension Zip Lines has created a safe way to experience the full length of a zip line while remaining an economical option. Learn more about our products and buy yours today.